Chatteris and March are becoming a national strong hold for water voles, according to a wildlife survey.

A water vole in the Fens

A water vole in the Fens - Credit: Archant

The Fens are becoming a national strong hold for water voles despite the species going into decline across the rest of Britain, according to a survey.

Water vole survey being carried out in the Fens

Water vole survey being carried out in the Fens - Credit: Archant

Ditch maintenance, a good range of food and the deep water they like are thought to be critical in giving them a stable habitat.

The survey involved two ditches between March and Chatteris - Curf Fen and Ransonmoor.

Ruth Hawksley, of the Wildlife Trust, which carried out the survey, said: “Our results support the Trust’s belief that the Cambridgeshire fens are a regionally, and possibly nationally, important stronghold for water voles.

“Surveying for water vole signs can be very enjoyable but also very demanding along Fenland drains.

Water voles are thriving in the Fens

Water voles are thriving in the Fens - Credit: Archant


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“Our survey only covered two of the 36 districts in the Middle Level catchment, but it revealed that internal drainage board drains can provide a large connected area of good water vole habitat.”

Cliff Carson, environmental officer for the Middle Level Commissioners, said: “It is good to have confirmation that regular maintenance carried out by drainage boards in the Middle Level catchment not only does not harm water voles but is actually a positive action.

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“It maintains the water plants, structure and cover at drain margins that water voles need to breed successfully and retain a stronghold in the Fens.”

The report says Ransonmoor Curf Fen have similar habitats and maintenance regimes.

Water voles are thriving in the Fens

Water voles are thriving in the Fens - Credit: Archant

At Ransonmoor there is a high and consistent occupancy while at Curf Fen they appear to move around.

Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers surveyed 307 ditch sections, covering more than 80km of ditch on foot or by boat, in collaboration with Mr Carson.

Their results repeated surveys carried out in 2010 and 2005.

¶ Cliff Carson, environmental officer for the Middle Level Commissioners, offers a free annual two-part training course on the identification of water vole and otter field signs.

Water voles are thriving in the Fens

Water voles are thriving in the Fens - Credit: Archant

The next course dates are April 21 pm and the April 23 am. Only 25 places. Booking is essential. Contact cliff.carson@middlelevel.gov.uk.

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